We tracked down Twin Cities (MN) native Andrew Osowski and had our minds blown by his approach to big metro gravel lizards…little outside the box, but clearly workin’ for him!
> Andrew: Seems like a lot of guys will go deep midwinter…there’s definitely fish to be caught out there, but most of my bigger ‘eyes come shallow.
> Fishing pressure will send fish shallow, but on metro lakes it’s also truck and snowmobile traffic that push ’em into weeds.
> I’m looking for shallow weed flats (3-7′) with a clean coontail/milfoil mix that are adjacent to deeper water.
> Within the weeds I’m trying to scope out hard spots that have a sandy bottom…seems like walleyes will use these as travel lanes between the thicker weed clumps.
> I find these hard spots by either visually looking down the hole or using my flasher to find the clean areas…this is where I want my tip-ups to be.
> Finding small bluegills and crappies is the most important part of this deal [more on that later] because that’s what these shallow ‘eyes are gorging on.
> I approach this kind of fishing like I’m targeting bluegills and crappies…a 4-mm tungsten jig and Panfish Plastics Chigger Fry (white).
> Crazy as it sounds, I actually try to catch the little panfish and get a school fired up below me. All that activity attracts roaming walleyes — essentially I’m fishing for bait to get the ‘eyes to roll by.
> When a walleye does come in, the pannie school will disappear [off the flasher] and be replaced by a big solid mark…stay aggressive with the tungsten, usually they’ll be fired up and crush it.
> If I miss a fish and it disappears, I’ll drop back down and pound bottom, bringing ’em back into the strike-zone.
> For my tip-ups, I like the Trophy Thermal…keeps holes open in cold temps and has a smooth spool.
> Biggest thing is running a small hook so the minnow can swim as naturally as possible…I run a #1 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook with a couple split-shots to keep the minnow down.
> Tried playing around with smaller spoons but it seems like they limit the minnow action and don’t get bit as much.
> I like using small sucker minnows (2.5-3″) ‘cuz they’re super active in the water and pressured fish will actually eat ’em…not just mouth ’em like they do with larger minnows.
> Just barely skin hook the minnows with hook point facing the head — most fish will eat it head first, so this increases hook-ups for sure.
> Run a long leader (10+ ft) of 12-lb fluoro to the tip-up line…don’t want any of the tip-up line in the water column.
> I experimented with lighter leader line, but kept breaking off…the fish run hard side to side in shallow water and rub the line against the hole.
> Really have to let them eat it — lot of times when the flag pops they’ll just sit at the bottom of the hole and chew — I wait until they start taking line before setting the hook.
Other important tidbits:
> Being quiet is huge. Fish are extremely spooky in this shallow of water, even with a foot of ice above ’em.
> I always run low power mode on my flasher and I do think it makes a difference.
> As crazy as it sounds, I’ll even shut off the aerator in my minnow bucket to minimize noise/vibration once I get everything set up.
> I’ll park my rig at least 50 yards away from where I’m going to fish and walk the rest of the way…also never run to tip-ups…speed walk softly (lol).
> Best time is usually the hour before and after sunset, but I’ve caught ’em in the middle of the day when we’ve had stable weather.